Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Can we take Murdo Fraser at his word?

The political scene is Scotland seems as close to a dead end as can be found. The corpse of Socialist cronyism still retains some vestigial loyalty in the West of Scotland, but the populist behemoth of Separatism now strides across the political landscape in the shape of our pudgy "Father of the Nation" Alex Salmond.

Meanwhile the crisis that faces Scotland is not just an economic or even a political one: it is a moral one. The creation of a class of dependents has elevated political patronage to the primary source of economic activity north of the border. Far from dispersing this centralized state, the SNP seeks to extend it. Instead of the different parts of Scotland deciding things locally, Salmond prefers to create bigger bureaucracies in Edinburgh.

Yet the wealth creating part of Scotland's economy continues to diminish. Oil support suffers from a chronic lack of investment in infrastructure- it is still not possible to fly from Aberdeen to Houston, and now barely to Baku. The road system remains congested and the rail system is Victorian. The financial sector has collapsed and the outlook for recovery is bleak indeed. The Scottish engineering and manufacturing base has shrunk dramatically, and the quality of education to provide the innovators of the future has fallen dramatically in the international league tables. A shiftless, unemployable underclass haunts the grim suburbs of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Drugs and alcohol play their part in Scotland's deteriorating health.

Socialism is dead, Separatism is a dead end.

Yet neither the Scottish Liberal Democrats nor the Scottish Conservatives have engaged the Scottish people. The crushing defeat of the Scottish Liberal Democrats in the May elections is still a sore point, yet the existential crisis gripping the Scottish Conservatives is no less serious.

The front runner in the leadership contest for the Scottish Tories, Murdo Fraser, is an old University colleague and his proposal to dissolve the Scottish Tories and start again reflects the political realities of the the new Scotland. Yet simply reforming the Conservatives as Progressives would not convince many that they were not the "same old Tories".

A more fundamental political realignment is needed in my view, if Scotland can avoid a return to the corruption of Labour, while rejecting the folly of separatism. I suspect that Murdo carries a large part of his party with him, yet there remain sufficient die-hards that could make his task, even if he wins, impossible.

In my view the Scottish Liberal Democrats should consider how best they may help to reshape Scotland's politics for the better. Scottish Liberal Democrats, though firmly radical in tradition have always understood the power of real economics, and been fully opposed to the Socialist make-work schemes that created the Labour client state in the first place. In that sense there is at least a piece of common ground we have with the party of the right. We need to think about what else we might have in common.

In the face of a choice between Socialism and Separatism, it is time that we offered a third choice: Sense. 

In order to do that, we may need to consider whether or not it might be wise to take Murdo Fraser at his word and to reshape Scottish politics through conciliation and cooperation with those who have long been our competitors.  


Anonymous said...

Bit rich for a LibDem to challenge anyone's integrity. Murdo may be a tool but I don't think he's resorted to outright lies to grab power. The LibDems in Scotland should just give up and go away. Had I publicly signed a pledge that my party then welshed on I would feel obliged to resign immediately - how many MPs and MSPs did? No shame.

Cicero said...

What nonsense: All the parties ended up voting for things that they had not supported in their manifesto, especially on University funding. Your comment is meant to be partisan, but it (perhaps rightly) simply draws attention to the problem that faces ALL of politics.

In the face of the crisis of politics as a whole, a Lib Dem blunder, for which they have been punished by the voters- is actually pretty small potatoes.